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‘Growing old gracefully’ – the Alton Anna Chaplain’s series of profiles

‘Growing old gracefully’ – an interview with Penny Carmichael

Kate Powell was appointed as Anna Chaplain in Alton, Hampshire, in March 2022 and has loved getting to know the older community of the town and surrounding villages. She especially enjoys their colourful life stories and attitudes to life.

What has become a series of articles called ‘Growing old Gracefully’ is her way of sharing with readers of the local newspaper the Alton Herald the profile of some of these amazing people and why they chose Alton to live out the final chapters of their life.

As it turned out, Kate conducted this interview just three days before Penny Carmichael died, so with her family’s consent the article was published posthumously.

How old are you and how long have you lived in Alton?

I am 100 years old and have a letter from the Queen to prove it! I worked until I was 72 and that is when I moved to Alton so I suppose that is 28 years ago now!

What made you choose to retire to Alton?

Having worked in Hampshire for the latter part of my career, I was keen to retire here. Also, my son lives in Haslemere so I didn’t want to be too far from him. I looked at Farnham and Petersfield but, not only were they too expensive, they didn’t seem as friendly as Alton. I felt confident I could be happy here and I was!

What do you like most about Alton?

Well, I love all the different community groups and I took full advantage of this. I especially enjoyed the u3a groups and led the u3a play reading group for 25 years. I was also an avid reader of the Alton Herald and am known to have sent in a number of letters to the editor! All of this gave me a sense of belonging and I have felt very much at home here.

Tell me a little bit about your favourite time in your life.

I have done a number of jobs over my life but my favourite was as a hotel receptionist at Keppel’s Head in Portsmouth. At the time, it was a very upmarket hotel and it was there that I found I was especially good at accounts which I really enjoyed. I only stayed in post for four years as I made the mistake of getting married again! But that marriage didn’t last long and I went on to become a resident house matron at Lords Wandsworth College in Hook for 15 years which was the second-best time of my life.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

My biggest dream now is to die. I am not sure that you could say I have ‘grown old gracefully’ but I did live independently until the age of 99. Since turning 100, life has become difficult for me. I have lost my mobility and feel ready to be with my heavenly Father. My biggest hope now is that I pop off peacefully in my sleep, knowing that I have lived a varied and fulfilled life.


This article originally appeared in the Alton Herald last August 2022. Penny’s family were so pleased with the way the interview had captured Penny’s personality that they used it as part of the tribute to their late mother at her funeral.



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